AKRONWith the digital age continuing to expand in ways unimaginable just a few years ago, some tire and automotive companies attempting to take their marketing programs to a higher level are using online portals to help support their dealers' marketing efforts and for training assistance.
Marketing groups of all sizes are coming out with new and improved programs, according to a survey by Tire Business. Here's a look at what some companies have on tap:
Yokohama Tire Corp. recently launched its commercial Exceed online dealer training program, which is now available to all its dealers.
We introduced it at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Kentucky about four months ago, where dealers in attendance had the chance to test drive it, and the feedback received has been great, said Alan Holtschneider, Yokohama's senior manager, marketing communications.
The tire manufacturer wants to make sure that every one of its customers take advantage of the tool. This includes dealers who have participated in Yokohama's SmartSolution-certified platformhaving met 21 rigorous and pre-established criteriawhich is aimed at dealers, fleet owners and truck operators, 24-hour servicing dealers or associate dealers.
To this end, we recently completed a mail campaign further educating our dealers about Exceedwhat it is, how to use it and how it can help their business, Mr. Holtschneider told Tire Business.
The online commercial Exceed program gives dealers 24/7 access to information on Yokohama products, including any new products launched. It also acts as a portal to many more resources that Yokohama offers to its dealers, including fuel savings calculator, inflation pressure calculator and a digital asset management system that allows dealers access to various marketing assets by Yokohama.
Overall, Exceed is designed to help our dealers succeed in their business by selling more Yokohama tires, he said. Dealers are really happy with it. We've received a lot of positive feedback on everything from the ease of navigation, selling skills module and advanced software to track employee training progress.
The commercial Exceed program is an extension of Yokohama's consumer tire dealer Exceed program.
By taking what we learned from the original version, we were able to offer the same high level of training to our commercial dealers relatively fast and with added functionality never before introduced, Mr. Holt-schneider added.
Dealer education has always been the goal of the program, he said, and the more dealers know about Yokohama's commercial tire products, the more they can help their customers select the right tire for their specific needs.
Tires are the third highest cost for fleets to manage, so buying the right tire is crucial, Mr. Holtschneider noted.
Moosic, Pa.-based Jack Williams Tire Co. found itself in a predicament last year when the dealer marketing group American Car Care Centers Inc. dissolved. Jack Williams was a longtime ACCC member distributor, and following the dissolution decided to launch its own marketing program, my-TireShop Certified Shop Program.
The program (see related story on page 9) is a community of independent tire dealers, partnered with Jack Williams Tire Co., who are engaged in growing their tire business by improving their professional installation processes, consistently providing an easy customer shopping experience while delivering more lifetime value with every tire purchase, said Michael Finley, wholesale marketing manager at Jack Williams.
The name, myTireShop, was derived by identifying what matters most to us and our customershelping our wholesale partners sell more tires with minimal intrusion into their business.
Being both a tire retailer and wholesale distributor, Jack Williams has unique insights into the challenges facing the independent tire dealer that other tire distributors may not recognize, he said.
We understand what it takes to compete at both the brick-and-mortar level, as well as in the 'virtual world' of e-commerce, Mr. Finley added.
We then share our best practices and selling tools with this select group of myTireShop Certified Shops.
The e-commerce site connects myTireShop Certified Shops to online retail tire sales opportunities, without competing for the same online customer.
The mission in the development of our myTireShop.com website was to give the myTireShop Certified Shop ownership of the pricing and the relationship with the customer; meaning he is truly selling the tire, at the price he determines, not myTireShop.com or the tire wholesaler, Mr. Finley said.
Features of the program include: a nationwide tire road hazard program; nationwide 12-month repair warranty; nationwide roadside assistance; online technician training and ASE prep testing; selling tools: tire inserts; tire displays; virtual vehicle illustration tools; road hazard protection selling tools; and business training.
Like everyone else, we believe that e-commerce shopping experiences will continue to grow, Mr. Finley said.
We also understand that most independent tire dealers do not have the resources to compete in this online marketplace without help from their wholesale partner.
He said that although Jack Williams is not the first distributor to offer an e-commerce tool, it differentiates itself by balancing its dealer-customers' interest to compete in this arena yet not be treated as just another installer.
Jack Williams sees an opportunity to help its myTireShop Certified Shops, he said, and it has committed significant financial and talent resources to execute the plan.
Goodyear recently launched its Tire & Services Network (TSN) and reported the programaccessible through www.thegoodyearlearningcenter.comis off to a strong start.
Dealers recognize the leadership that Goodyear is demonstrating online, and they want to be part of this success, said Jim Davis, public relations manager, Goodyear North America.
Hundreds of stores have signed up to get a new website through the Tire & Service Network Ad Program opportunity, Mr. Davis said. TCS Technologies, the only authorized provider of websites through this program, is building and supporting websites customized to each dealer's business goals. This Internet marketing solution allows dealers to expand their online presence. Many dealers are already experiencing an increase in visibility across search engines.
The Akron-based tire manufacturer is still receiving new requests several months after the launch because Mr. Davis said he believes dealers recognized the value of the full service support and consultation that TCS provides.
For a busy store owner or manager, they can have confidence that TCS will monitor their website and assist with updating content to keep their website up to date with fresh, relevant content and promotions that consumers desire, he said.
Other features include search engine optimization best practices, services that automatically update promotions and rebates, as well as deep link integration from goodyear.com into a dealer's website shopping cart.
Our goal is to help drive more consumers to the dealer's website, provide consumers with a best-in-class shopping experience and ultimately help drive more purchase-ready consumers to participating TSN locations, Mr. Davis said.
Goodyear is planning to release new features and upgrades to the websites on a regular cadence. Moving forward, the websites will see enhanced navigation, improved content and presentation of offers and promotions, Mr. Davis said. The enhancements are designed to help drive more traffic through the website to a dealer's store(s).
TSN dealers can still sign up for a website through TCS at no additional cost to their TSN advertising program fee, with the websites available at no additional cost to TSN members through 2015.
K&M Tire Inc. is partnering with Internet solutions provider and online marketing firm Net Driven to assist dealers with their website development.
We had ascertained from dealer feedback that there was a desire and need for the development of websites, said Kevin Knebel, marketing manager at K&M Tire.
K&M Tire simply did not have the resources to meet this need, Mr. Knebel said, so it reached out to Net Driven to see if the two companies could work something out for the dealers.
K&M reached an agreement with Net Driven a year and a half ago to provide this service for its dealers and has been working with the company ever since. More than 90 K&M dealers are using Net Driven as their website provider.
Net Driven provides website development from scratch, he said.
Dealers are involved in the process by giving Net Driven the information necessary to get started, and then Net Driven can provide internet marketing, website development and website maintenance and analysis.
Net Driven will assist the dealer with a website strategy, but the dealer will need to be involved in order to ensure success, Mr. Knebel said.
Dealer feedback has been positive.
Net Driven has been very responsive to our dealer's needs and has assisted K&M Tire with our dealer conferences, he said.
The official K&M Tire website is still managed internally by K&M's IT department, but its Mr. Tire (www.mrtireoutlet.com) and Big 3 Tire (www.big3tire.com) program websites were created by and are managed by Net Driven.
Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. launched its tire dealer portal earlier this year and said it has been working well so far.
We've been able to provide our dealers with useful and user-friendly tools to aid in their business, sell Kumho (products) and reap benefits, said Megan Wentz, marketing coordinator at Kumho.
While the company is still working hard to increase traffic on the website, it had about 3,016 dealers enrolled in the Kumho Tire Premium Fuel associate dealer program as of mid-July.
There are various aspects to the program, including sales tools, the Kumho store, dashboard, online training, etc. The Kumho store is proving to be the most popular part of the site, Ms. Wentz said, with analytics showing that 24 percent of page views are in the store.
The store is where dealers are able to use accrued points to order POP, literature, wearables and other Kumho-branded items, she said.
The dashboard allows dealers to look at details of their profile, including location, business specifics, online tracking, purchase history, bonus programs and more.
We're in a constant process of tweaking and revising little details here and there since it's still a relatively new resource, she added.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143. Twitter@jenniferkarpus